Baku Dialogues: Reflections on Turkey’s perspectives: regional peace, security and development
Honorable Rector, my dear friend Hafiz Pashayev,
Dear professors, instructors, diplomats, guests and students,
First of all I would like to deliver my gratitude and greetings from Turkey. I am very pleased to be with you at ADA University today. Before proceeding with my speech, I want to congratulate my dear friend, Rector Pashayev. Under his leadership this beautiful campus has been established and I believe as students you will make the most of the opportunities provided here. I would also like to congratulate my dear friend, President Ilham Aliyev, and the Azerbaijani government, as I believe they have demonstrated great support for the establishment of this university.
I had the chance to walk through the Old City of Baku this morning. I already know the depths of this country’s history, and once again, I have witnessed this today. Now, in this auditorium, I see the future of Azerbaijan: I see you, and I can see the success of the investment in you. This makes me happy.
Azerbaijan and Turkey are two brotherly states. We are two parts of the same nation; we have the same roots, traditions, and feelings. We share our successes as we share our sorrows. I have visited Azerbaijan several times previously, not just Baku, but also Sheki, Ganja, and Gabala, and I have also witnessed the development of those regions. But this time I came for a different purpose. I came at the invitation of the Nizami Ganjavi Center to deliver a speech.
I would like thank Rector Pashayev and the University Senate for awarding me this diploma and for welcoming me to your faculty. Back in the 1980s, I was a faculty member, but I left to join politics. Now, after serving as a head of the state for seven years, I passed that post to my dear friend, and now I am serving my country in different fields.
Universities are always important to a country’s future. When we say universities, we are talking about universal investment. A country may have different resources - for example, Azerbaijan has natural resources - but everything starts with universal investment and human capital. Universal investment means highly educated, knowledgeable people. Universities are the places that shape the future of the country, and I see investments in universities as a priority. I often visit universities and talk to students, in Turkey and elsewhere. I am pleased to deliver a speech at one of Azerbaijan’s most prestigious universities today. It is also important to note that the economic, political and educational progress of our countries is the main driver of development.
With great pleasure I observe that after 24 years of independence, Azerbaijan has seen great achievements in every field. It has become a center of politics and diplomacy in the Caucasus. Baku is a historical city. It hosted important cultures during 14-15th centuries and witnessed the first discoveries of the country’s oil in the 19th century. Azerbaijan was among the first states to restore its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union and thereafter used its time very productively. I am saying this as a person who knows the past of Azerbaijan very well. Sometimes parents do not notice how fast their child is growing, but those who see them more occasionally are surprised at how fast they are growing up. This is true for me every time I visit Baku. I find it different and I feel proud. Azerbaijan has also achieved great successes in diplomacy. It has successfully completed its non-permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and regularly hosts cultural and diplomatic events. It hosted the Conference of OIC Foreign Ministers; now it will host the first European Olympic Games. Ganja was selected as a European Youth Capital. In 2010 Istanbul was also chosen as a European Capital of Culture. These are not easy events to host, and Azerbaijan’s selection marks the power of its diplomacy.
We are seeing economic and infrastructural developments in Azerbaijan. There are significant regional and international projects. We have realized the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project, which transports Azerbaijani oil to the world via Turkey. These were once perceived as impossible dreams. Now, with the realization of TANAP, Azerbaijani gas will be delivered to Europe. Meanwhile, we are in the process of finalizing the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, launched together with my friend Ilham Aliyev. All these projects begin in Azerbaijan and go to Europe, drawing international attention to Azerbaijan.
Dear friends, given that we are in a diplomatic academy and I am a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, I would like to discuss the political processes that are taking place across the world. I want to start from the Caucasus. The reality is that we do not have peace and security in the Caucasus. The main reason for this is the occupation of more than 20% of Azerbaijani territories. Given the international recognition of the pre-occupation borders and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, this is unacceptable. We all have responsibilities towards the soonest possible resolution of the conflict. This will bring peace and stability not only to the Caucasus, but also to the wider region. Unfortunately, the OSCE Minsk Group’s activities remain very low profile and this is not satisfactory. We observe double standards and sadly, the passivity of the international community implicitly supports the occupation. Given the reaction of the US and EU to Russia following recent events in Ukraine, the continuing silence on the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict diminishes faith in international law. That is why it should be our first priority to end the conflict and establish trust and stability in the Caucasus. No one should forget that there will be no economic development in a place where there is no trust. The fact that one state is rich does not entail security. As I mentioned earlier, Azerbaijan is developing fast, but in order for this development to reach the wider region and to position the Caucasus as a gateway rather than a wall between Europe and Asia, the occupation needs to be stopped. We regret that the UN and the international community are not prioritizing this issue.
When we look at the relations of the global powers with Iran, we see positive changes as a result of the nuclear program negotiations. This is in Tehran’s interests. Although Iran is rich in natural resources, it has seen little in the way of technological innovation due to the sanctions. This has meant that it imports gas despite its domestic oil and gas resources. That is why the resolution of the problems via diplomatic means should be appreciated. We hope this process will lead to eradication of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, because if one of those states gains nuclear power, it is inevitable that the others will also seek to develop nuclear capacity. It is like two friends walking together when one of them has a knife. You can never feel secure in this situation. We hope that diplomacy will succeed.
We oppose what is happening today in Syria and Iraq. We should learn from this; if leaders are not willing to consider their nation’s demands, civil wars can ensue, and as a result states will exhaust themselves. Iraq is an oil-rich country, but the Iraqi nation has been living in misery for years. More recently, the more inclusive government has increased our hopes for prosperity in Iraq. But there are huge problems in Syria: 3 million people have fled their homes. Azerbaijan knows well what it means to be a refugee. There are 1 million refugees and IDPs in Azerbaijan as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and we believe that the international community should focus not only on current refugee crises, but also on ongoing ones. Problems will be easier to address if we approach them together.
We also believe that diplomatic tools can solve the ongoing problems in the Mediterranean region. One of these problems is the Cyprus issue. Unfortunately, there are two separate communities in Cyprus, and despite all our efforts to unite these communities, a solution has not been found. The Turkish community said, “yes” to the model proposed by the UN years ago, but because the other side rejected this formula, we could not reach peace. Until that point, everyone had been saying that the Turkish people did not want peace, but that referendum revealed the truth.
Turning to Russia, the recent events in Ukraine have reawakened Cold War sensibilities. This is a huge crisis that has caused the deaths of 5000 people to date. The annexation of Crimea constituted a violation of international law, and the fact that this act was committed by one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council is unacceptable. This threatens the integrity of the international system. As we all know, the 20th century was full of war and suffering, and a new international system emerged as a result, gathering together the lessons learned. Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe, and Turkey is one of the founding countries - all these countries came together to protect human rights and democracy. They came together to prevent the catastrophes that took place during the two world wars from happening again. But as if we had not suffered enough, we now face new problems in this new century. Only 15 years have passed since the beginning of the 21st century, but these have been unforgettable events. We must address this, and the necessary steps for doing so are clear. Experience shows that states can develop only through achieving public welfare, which depends on respect for basic human rights and democracy, as well as good governance. These can enable peaceful resolution of problems. Of course, there will be problems, but if we don’t learn from our mistakes, these problems will reoccur. I am sure that as students of ADA University, you are well versed in history. We should learn lessons from history in order to prevent the re-emergence of the same mistakes.
We witness a great deal of suffering in today’s world. For example, there are 2 million refugees from Syria that have fled to Turkey. All those people had lives in their own countries and now they are desperate. This is heartbreaking and can be prevented either by war or by diplomacy. Wars are always painful. Of course, every state should strengthen its military powers. I know that Azerbaijan is also building its military capacity and this makes me feel proud. Our military capacity is also increasing, but we should not forget that military capacity is for preventing wars, not starting them. We should prefer diplomatic solutions. For that we need educated people. Thus the establishment of such a university like ADA is of the utmost importance for Azerbaijan. What is also of crucial significance is that here we can see students from 32 countries, and faculty members from around the world. It is important for you to encounter other cultures, ethnic groups, and so on. The world does not only consist of people who were born in Baku or Ankara. There are different people in Africa, the US - and knowing different cultures will make you better diplomats. Today, no country can exist in a closed environment. Today we are able to follow everything that happens in the world without leaving our houses. We see what happens in Nepal, we see riots in the US. You know what happens in Turkey. We should improve ourselves, open our minds and strive for accountable governance. As long as we follow these principles, all nations will be rich and satisfied. It is with great pleasure that I observe that Azerbaijan is following this path. I was happy to see cheerful faces during my tour in the city. I see diversification of the economy and industry. In particular, I am happy to see investment in education, because the future of all nations lies in the hands of the youth. I would like to once again express my gratitude to all of you and to wish you good luck! Thank you!